Disruptive innovation: a force for good

The biggest eye care innovation in the coming years could be your smartphone.

Share options

Author: Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MCOptom, Clinical Adviser
Date: 7 July 2015

Having wondered for some time what would be the innovation that could disrupt the market and change the way we deliver eye care in the UK, I was struck last week by a paper I saw in JAMA Ophthalmology. The biggest eye care innovation in the coming years may not be 'sweep source OCT', greater protection from UV or advanced treatments for AMD. The biggest innovation in eye care delivery, not just in the UK, but in the world: could be my smartphone.

Published recently by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the paper was a validated trial of a smartphone based visual acuity test. The conclusion was that the smartphone test is capable of accurate and repeatable visual acuity measurements, comparable to a 5-letter logMAR chart. Lead author, co-founder and ophthalmologist, Dr Andrew Bastawrous, is a man who clearly has a vision of innovation as a force for good. With over 285 million visually impaired people in the world, not enough ophthalmologists or optometrists, difficult geography and limited resources, a new way to deliver eye care services to the poorest communities is needed, and this tool could be the missing key to make that possible. The paper validates the visual acuity test; however, the device, called Peek, does much more. Subject to future validations it can screen for cataract and with a cheap 3D printed attachment it can act as a fundus camera, taking a video clip of the optic nerve head and macula, which can then be geo-tagged and sent for review, all for less than £300 and operated by relatively unskilled support workers. It is more advanced than any fundus camera I have ever seen, perhaps not in terms of image quality, but certainly in terms of potential outcome for its users. 

With over 285 million visually impaired people in the world, not enough ophthalmologists or optometrists, difficult geography and limited resources, a new way to deliver eye care services to the poorest communities is needed...

This is a seriously exciting innovation, which I think has the potential to make the world a much better place, but is it disruptive? Only time will tell, but potentially, yes, it could really disrupt eye care in the UK. Although not designed for the UK market, there are a number of ways in which such a device might be refined for application in the developed world and this may have an impact on the role played by the optometrist. Perhaps a device like Peek could result in better targeting of eye care, facilitating more detailed eye examinations for those with a greater need? Perhaps we will spend more time interpreting results in telemedicine centres, similar to those used for retinopathy screening?

It is important that, rather than be afraid of disruptive innovation, we are part of the conversation. As vision and eye health experts, optometrists should work in collaboration with innovators, technologists and creatives to ensure that tomorrow’s eye care is better than today’s, not just cheaper.  That is why I was very excited to see that, collectively, our profession is investing in being part of the conversation of tomorrow. Our industry has commissioned think tank 2020Health to conduct research on emerging technologies and their effects upon what we do and how the eye health landscape may evolve into the future.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MCOptom
Clinical Adviser, College of Optometrists

Daniel graduated from Anglia Ruskin University, where he won the Haag Strait prize for best dissertation. Before joining the College, he was Managing Director of an independent practice in Cambridge and a visiting clinician at Anglia Ruskin University. He has also worked as a senior glaucoma optometrist with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and as a diabetic retinopathy screening optometrist. Daniel was a member of Cambridgeshire LOC from 2007 to 2015 and a member of the College of Optometrists Council, representing its Eastern region, from 2009 to 2014.  

Daniel has an interest in the effects of vision in art and is known throughout the industry as a passionate advocate of iconic and artisan eyewear. He currently practises part time in independent practice, is a locum, a glaucoma specialist optometrist across East Anglia with Newmedica and is clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists.

Return to blog listings
OK
Loading...
Loading...
Loading...